Saturday, October 2, 2010

O. So Wilde

When sunflowers were introduced from America in the mid 16th Century, news of their vast height and radiant flowers spread rapidly through Europe. The first description, written by the Spanish botanist Monardes, reached England in a book entitled 'Joyful news out of the new found world'.
The name sunflower was already used for related flowers, especially marigolds, and the idea of opening to face the sun and following its course across the sky also applied to daisies - originally 'day's-eyes'.A flower motif inspired by daisies or marigolds, but exaggerated to look more like the sun and its rays, appeared in Roman mosaics and medieval church carvings long before sunflowers themselves arrived. In this sense the new sunflowers seemed to embody ancient traditions, and this was echoed in the Latin name Helianthus, deriving from the name of the Greek sun god Helios.
Meanwhile, in America, the Incas had made sunflowers the symbol of their god, but in 17th Century Europe sunflowers came to represent kingship at its most vainglorious. For instance, Charles I of England and later Louis XIV of France were referred to as the Sun King. Like royalty, sunflowers lost favour and 18th Century gardening manuals suggested banning these oversized plants from flowerbeds. Instead they became useful crops, producing oil from the seeds, and also fibres, dyes and medicines.
But sunflowers were to rise again in artistic status. In the 19th Century the aesthetic movement, led by fashionable figures such as Oscar Wilde, popularised the sunflower as a motif in decorative art. Far more enduringly, Van Gogh imparted new heights of meaning and popularity with his series of sunflower paintings. In these he sought to reflect the heat of the sun during the summer at Arles, and its creative energy.

This particular sunflower was found on a walk in the woods - how had it come to be growing out in the wild?

The photo I snapped that day was transferred onto silk and has been heavily bead embroidered, as well as bit of silk embroidery.

This is a one of a kind example of wearable art, a statement piece that celebrates the artistic influences of the past in a completely modern style.


  1. Love your sunflower! I'm working on a small 'practice' piece for our Inspired By the Master's exhibit using Van Gogh's sunflower and a picture my daughter took. You've inspired me almost as much as Van Gogh! Beautiful work..thanks for sharing with us.

  2. your bead work is always so beautiful and i love seeing it. trying to get back into the swing of things on line since being ill. this was a great thing to see after being off line for a while.

  3. Thanks!

    Robbie - I'd love to hear more about your exhibit.

    Faith - Good to hear from you again, it's been awhile.